EARTHQUAKES

An earthquake centered between NYC and Philadelphia rattles much of the Northeast

Apr 5, 2024, 8:46 AM | Updated: 3:42 pm

Listen live at 3:45 and 5:15 p.m. for more about the earthquake:

 

NEW YORK (AP) — An earthquake centered between New York and Philadelphia shook skyscrapers and suburbs across the northeastern U.S. Friday, causing no widespread damage but startling millions of people in an area unaccustomed to temblors.

The U.S. Geological Survey said over 42 million people might have felt the midmorning quake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.8, centered near Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, or about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of New York City and 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Philadelphia.

People from Baltimore to Boston and beyond felt the ground shake. The temblor severely damaged three multifamily homes in Newark, New Jersey, displacing nearly 30 residents. Officials around the region were checking bridges and other major infrastructure, some flights were diverted or delayed, Amtrak slowed trains throughout the busy Northeast Corridor, and a Philadelphia-area commuter rail line suspended service as a precaution.

Pictures and decorative plates tumbled off the wall in Christiann Thompson’s house in Whitehouse Station, she said, relaying what her husband had told her by phone as she volunteered at a library.

“The dogs lost their minds and got very terrified and ran around,” she said.

Whitehouse Station Fire Chief Tim Apgar said no injuries were reported, but responders fielded some calls from people who smelled gas. Nearby, the upper portion of the 264-year-old Col. John Taylor’s Grist Mill historic site collapsed onto a roadway, according to Readington Township Mayor Adam Mueller.

In a 26th-floor midtown Manhattan office, Shawn Clark felt the quake and initially feared an explosion or construction accident. It was “pretty weird and scary,” the attorney said.

Aftershocks were reported hours later in a central New Jersey township, producing some reports of damage and items falling off shelves, Hunterdon County Public Safety Director Brayden Fahey said.

Earthquakes are less common on the eastern than western edges of the U.S. because the East Coast does not lie on a boundary of tectonic plates. The biggest Eastern quakes usually occur along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which extends through Iceland and the Atlantic Ocean.

But rocks under the East Coast are better than their western counterparts at spreading earthquake energy across long distances.

“If we had the same magnitude quake in California, it probably wouldn’t be felt nearly as far away,” said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Paul Caruso.

A 4.8-magnitude quake isn’t large enough to cause damage, except for some minor effects near the epicenter, the agency posted on the social platform X. By comparison, the temblor that killed at least 12 people and injured more than 1,000 in Taiwan on Wednesday was variously measured at a magnitude of 7.2 or 7.4.

Still, Friday’s quake caused some disruption.

Flights to the New York, Newark and Baltimore airports were held at their origins for a time while officials inspected runways for cracks. The Seton Hall University men’s basketball team said its flight to Newark was held in Indianapolis, likely delaying a Friday afternoon welcome-home celebration of the team’s National Invitational Tournament win Thursday.

At least five flights en route to Newark were diverted and landed at Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where some passengers rented carts to get home.

Traffic through the Holland Tunnel between Jersey City, New Jersey, and lower Manhattan was stopped for about 10 minutes for inspections, the Port Authority of New York and Jersey said.

In midtown Manhattan, motorists blared their horns on shuddering streets. Some Brooklyn residents heard a boom and felt their building shaking. Cellphone circuits were overloaded for a time as people tried to reach loved ones and figure out what was going on. Later, phones blared with earthquake-related notifications during the New York Philharmonic’s morning performance, where Anton Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra “literally ended with a cellphone alert,” said spokesperson Adam Crane.

At U.N. headquarters in New York, the shaking interrupted the chief executive of Save The Children, Janti Soeripto, as she briefed an emergency Security Council session on conditions in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war.

In New York City’s Astoria neighborhood, Cassondra Kurtz was giving her 14-year-old Chihuahua, Chiki, a cocoa-butter rubdown for her dry skin. Kurtz was recording the moment on video when her apartment started shaking hard enough that a large mirror banged audibly against a wall.

The video captured Kurtz looking around, perplexed. Chiki, however, “was completely unbothered.”

Friday’s quake was felt as far as Maine, where “it felt like the floor was almost doing the wave” in Meghan Hebert South Portland apartment. Some Vermont and New Hampshire residents initially figured it was snow falling off their roofs or plow trucks rumbling by. In Hartford, Connecticut, paralegal Stacy Santa Cruz watched her computer screen shake.

Sarah Brody and her two daughters were in a 14th-floor Philadelphia hotel room when water in the bathroom sink started quivering. The visitors from Los Angeles immediately recognized the sensation, “and we were not psyched about being on the 14th floor if it turned out to be a major earthquake,” Brody said.

Earthquakes with magnitudes near or above 5 struck near New York City in 1737, 1783 and 1884, the USGS said. Friday’s rumbles also stirred memories of the Aug. 23, 2011, earthquake that jolted people from Georgia to Canada. Centered in Virginia, the 5.8-magnitude quake was the strongest earthquake to hit the East Coast since World War II.

President Joe Biden said he spoke to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy about Friday’s earthquake. The White House said the administration would provide help if needed.

New York City had no indications of major safety or infrastructure problems from the earthquake, Mayor Eric Adams said. City Buildings Commissioner James Oddo said officials would watch out for any delayed cracks or other effects on the Big Apple’s 1.1 million buildings.

Meanwhile, even the delicately placed eggs that form part of a sculpture at a Chinatown art gallery stayed in place, to the relief of gallerist Kristen Thomas.

___

Catalini reported from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. Contributors included Associated Press writers Jake Offenhartz, Bobby Caina Calvan, Michael R. Sisak and Karen Matthews in New York City; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Seth Borenstein in Washington; Michael Casey in Boston; Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia; Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Michael Rubinkam in Allentown, Pennsylvania; Susan Haigh in Hartford, Connecticut; Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Connecticut, and Bruce Shipkowski in Newark, New Jersey.

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An earthquake centered between NYC and Philadelphia rattles much of the Northeast